Guard doesn’t give much thought to stopping anytime soon
Janae Holmes of Carson City was ahead of her time in the 1950s, when she began her law enforcement career as a store detective in Detroit as a young wife and mother.
At 66 years old and a prison guard at Warms Springs Correctional Center, she’s now behind the times.
At an age when her peers may be winding down, Holmes is just gearing up.
“I’m thinking about retiring in the next couple of years,” she said with a wink. “I don’t feel any different than the day I went to work for the prison.”
Her first job as a prison guard game was in 1977 at the Nevada State Prison. At the time, there were only about seven women working there. After 25 years, women have almost caught up with the men.
“Fifty percent of our upper echelon are women,” she said, noting Jackie Crawford, director of the Nevada Department of Prisons, leads the pack.
Not many prison guards, male or female, however, carry the scars Holmes does of a career in law enforcement.
She was the first women to be hired as a patrol deputy with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department in Clarksville, Tenn. At the time, Holmes was a mother of three girls and married to a Tennessee state trooper.
She served on the vice squad as an undercover narcotics detective and patrol. It was also in Tennessee that Holmes was introduced to the dangers of law enforcement.
One evening, she and her patrol partner responded to a domestic dispute call.
“The worst things you could work is domestic violence. Everyone is angry, and the tempers are way up there. By the time you walk in the house, it’s already destroyed,” she said.
“There was a 14-year-old girl there, and she couldn’t speak English We’d just arrested her mother and father. I was trying to console her. When I bent over to assist her, she pulled a switchblade and cut me.”
The gash in Holmes’ chest cut her shirt “almost in half,” she said.
It took about 60 to 70 stitches to close the gaping wound, but a scar was the least of her worries. The wound developed gangrene, and Holmes had to undergo several surgeries to repair the damage.
Another episode, she likens to “Keystone Cops,” was when she was in plainclothes with her partner pursuing a suspect who’d just robbed a convenience store.
As the duo ran through town, Holmes said, she was carrying a pistol behind her male partner, who was running with a shotgun.
A good Samaritan failed to notice both Holmes and her partner wore their badges on a chain around their necks.
” This (clerk) came out and thought he was doing a good deed trying to help my partner. I had my weapon out chasing behind my partner. We’re screaming, ‘Stop, we’re the police!’ And the (clerk) shot me.”
The bullet entered just below her right buttock: “I fell straight to the ground.”
Holmes, laughing at the recollection, said the recovery from the bullet wound was less trouble than the knife wound; however, “I just couldn’t sit down too easy for a while.”
Today there is much less excitement in her job as a third-shift sergeant. She works on payroll, tours the yard, and deals with inmates.
Holmes still loves the work.
“I really actually enjoy the people I work with. There’s a a lot of self gratification in the job,” she said. “I still feel strong enough to still continue to do the job.”
In her off time, Holmes camps and fishes with her “fiance for life,” Chuck Murray, owner of Mountain West Insurance Agency.
The three daughters she raised have gone on to have careers and families of their own.
Daughter Tammy Burnett, 44, lives in Silver City and gave Holmes her granddaughter, Sarah, who is now 20. Holmes’ middle daughter, Debbie Grubbs, 42, lives in Spokane Wash., and is the mother of Johnny Counts, 21, and Justin Grubbs, 18. Holmes’ youngest, Chief Petty Officer Paula Holmes, 40, is stationed on the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln and just returned stateside from a 10-month deployment to the Persian Gulf. She sent home a photograph of herself shaking hands with President George Bush when he visited the Lincoln.
No, there isn’t much thought of retirement, Holmes admits.
“I have to be careful of what I say, or they’ll make me retire,” she said laughing. “I’ve never regretted my career choice. I love it. I absolutely love it, and I’m very comfortable in my own skin.”